Friday, May 29, 2009

Lost in Translation - Part 2

There is more to this story then what I wrote in the first post. If one looked at the positions and analysis, he could see that it was an interesting endgame. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the game itself, and I did not want that to get lost in what occurred during the game, after the game, and on the following day.

At times I let my inner coach and TD go places that perhaps she should not go. I've had discussions with my blog readers when recounting these incidents. In this particular case I was dealing with my opponent, and I was trying to keep the tournament director out of it. I did not feel it was necessary to get the TD involved. I thought I could make the point of not talking in the tournament room, and staying focused on one's game without getting anyone in trouble. What I had not counted on was my idiomatic English being misconstrued as a cheating accusation, and butting heads with an overly protective chess parent.

After I went back into the playing room and the tournament director gave the mom a "polite lecture" about her son being mature enough to play with adults, she decided she would camp out by the door. This way she could keep an eye out on her son, and make sure his "mean and nasty opponent" was not going do anything else to him. It was rather annoying to look up from my game and see this woman staring at me like I was the devil incarnate. At one point I said something to the tournament director about not liking her giving me the evil eye from across the room. I think he was kind of aggravated by the whole thing and said to me, "What do you want me to do? Gouge her eyes out?"

I decided it was not worth asking him to tell her she could not sit by the door. I may have won the battle on the talking issue, but I was clearly going to lose the psychological war if I did not just ignore her. However it's hard to ignore this type of thing when the kid has an entourage of coaches, parents of coaches, and other assorted people who come in during the game check up on him. Nobody said anything, but people would bring him water and snacks or just stand around and watch. I felt like it was me versus my opponent and the chess academy that he is part of. Are these kids like Hollywood actors who need their entourage to look after them? Do my people need to talk to their people to smooth things out. The problem is, I don't have any people.

One may be thinking, "Ohhh, Polly let herself get psyched out by a nine year old." No it was not getting psyched out by the kid. It was getting intimidated by his entourage, and feeling guilty about being thought of as a bully accusing a nine year old of cheating. After the game was over I made a point of going out of the room with my opponent, congratulating him on outstanding play, apologizing to the mother and him for the misunderstanding, and explaining what I had meant. Apology accepted. End of story? Not quite.

On Monday I had taken a bye for round 5 so that I could play in the action tournament. That tournament was fairly uneventful except one game against a guy whose "elevator doesn't go to the top." Perhaps a post on that event will follow. The short version is; I scored 2.5 - 2.5 and won $16 tying for top under 1800. Woo hoo! That paid for dinner at LAX on Monday night. The action tournament was being played on the other side of the room, so I didn't have to deal with the kid, his mother or his entourage.

In round 6 I'm back to the main event. Taking a 1/2 point bye did not protect me from the dreaded full point bye when I only have 1 point out 5. A last round bye in a tournament where I purposely take a red-eye to avoid worrying about making my flight is really annoying. Originally the director paired me against a kid from the action who had also gotten a bye. However it seemed like he left, so the director found the player in the Open section who was getting the bye in that section.

While I'm waiting for the director to find me an opponent I got talking to the mom who had stuck up for me on Sunday. I thanked her for backing me up. She told me I was absolutely right for saying something. She knows that kids tend to talk too much with the other kids, and she's always concerned that her son might say something about a game accidentally. I told her that I felt bad that I upset the kid, and that he felt it necessary to go crying to mommy. She said something to the effect of "he plays her (you) like a fiddle." I'm not sure if she was saying I got suckered, or that he goes running to mommy over every little thing. Which ever, I guess this may be part of his game. I should mention that this woman's son is friends with the kid, and they both seem to go to the same chess program.

During his sixth round game the kid was seated directly behind me on another row of tables. Another one of his friends was seated next me. The friend's opponent was a no show, and got a forfeit win after an hour. Later on mommy comes into the playing room, and sits down next to me to watch her son play. I didn't say anything to her. I just acted as if she was a random spectator watching another game. Every once in awhile she'd get up and give him something to eat or drink. Sometimes he'd get up from the board and have a conversation with her. To me that is so wrong, but I wasn't going to say a thing. I wasn't playing him, so it his opponent's problem not mine. I made my point the day before, and if she wants to condone, even encourage her son's behavior that's her business not mine.

Maybe it's a southern California thing, but I saw way too many parents getting involved with their children's games while in progress. (My people will talk to your people, and our people will deal with the tournament director's people.) In one round there was a dispute about whether somebody had made the time control or not. The mother of one of the players in the dispute starts talking to the director and the opponent. The kid was probably 12 or 13 years old. Why is his mother butting in like that?

I've seen my share of crazy chess parents argue with the director when they don't like how a ruling was handled. I've also seen neurotic parents at open tournaments hover over their child's game when they're playing. My feeling on the matter is; if the child is strong enough to play adults then he needs to behave accordingly. That means not running around the room, or chit chatting with his friends because he's bored. That means not relying on mommy or daddy to fetch water or snacks for him during the game. That means if he has a problem with the opponent, try to work it out with the opponent, or go to the tournament director. The parent should not be involved at all while the child is playing. Chess is a game between two individual players. Parents, coaches, spouses, significant others, etc should play no part in what happens during game. After the game is over then those people can provide whatever support is needed.

Most scholastic tournaments impose certain rules regarding player conduct. Some examples are, no parents in the room while games are in progress, no wandering around the room during the game, no talking with other players, and no returning to the playing room once their game is done. Rules like this would not go over too well in an open event. "I'm sorry Grandmaster Shabalov, your game is over you can't come back in and watch Grandmaster Akobian's game." The problem is parents and kids take advantage of the less rigid structure regarding player conduct in the playing room.

This past weekend I saw too many incidents with kids having conversations with their friends, or parents not just in the playing room, but right at the board while the opponent was on move. At one point during my game with the kid, he was trying to correct his score sheet. I had given him my Mon Roi so he could see what moves he was missing. His clock was running since it was his move. A kid comes up and starts asking him questions. I said "Excuse me, we are still playing. You should not be talking to him."

I suppose it would be easy ask "Where were the tournament directors?" There was one tournament director. He was responsible for pairings, and running not only the main event, but the various side events. It was hard for him to be everywhere at once. He could only deal with what he saw, or what was reported to him. I probably caused him enough aggravation with my "cat fight" with mommy. I didn't need to tell him how to run his tournament too.

As players we need to take responsibility for our own actions. If we are parents or coaches then we need to make sure we have taught our youngsters to behave in an appropriate manner regarding etiquette, sportsmanship, decision making and all the other stuff involved in being a tournament chess player. If we can take care of these things ourselves it makes the tournament director's job a whole lot easier.

Rd. 4 Lost In Translation - Part 1

After getting slapped around by a high school kid in round three, I had to play a nine year old with a 1778 rating in round four. He had gotten paired up in his first three rounds. I was his first "down pairing". He started off with a queen side castle on the wall chart. 0-0-0. I had managed to avoid the same fate with with my first round draw.

This was my first round in the merged schedules with the 40/2, G/60 time limit. This is the part that's sometimes difficult for me to slow down. I can get kind of antsy when the opponent is going into deep thinks on every move. I was getting antsy because he was staring off into space on his move. He looked either tired or bored, it was hard to say. Even in the opening he'd be staring into space or fiddling with his watch on his time. After awhile he kept getting up and leaving the board when it was my move. Every time I'd look up he'd be hanging around with this one kid, and talking in the playing room. They'd go over and look a friend's game and continue their conversation over there. I'm sure they weren't discussing our game. I have no idea who the other kid even was. He may have been playing in the scholastic tournament that was being on Sunday also.

This type of behavior by kids, especially higher rated kids who should know better just bothers the hell out of me. Parents and coaches should be constantly reminding their children and students to take the game seriously and not be using the opponent's thinking time to run around the playing room and socializing with other kids.

As I left the room at once point to go get water, the two of them are having a conversation. I did not raise my voice, but I did tell the kids that is was inappropriate to be having conversations in the playing room. I also told the kibitzer that he was doing his friend no favors by talking to him while he's in the middle of a game. I guess I should watch my use of idioms such as "doing one no favors" when speaking to a kid whose first language is not English.

I guess this got interpreted as doing a favor by helping his friend in giving moves. I certainly didn't think the kids were cheating. If I thought that I would have gone straight to the tournament director. The inner coach was coming out and saying, "Stop talking to your friends, and go play your chess game." If he had been one of my students, I would be very upset with him for not being at the board staying focused on the game.

I also feel it's important for a player not give appearance of unethical behavior. One could be discussing the weather or what happened in last night's baseball game, but in the midst of a tournament the opponent may be thinking the worst. For all the opponent knows, the player might be saying to his higher rated buddy "I just played my knight to e5, what should I do if he attacks it with Bd6?" I've been guilty of chit chatting with friends in the playing room and having an overly concerned opponent check up on me.

The kid had been away from the board for awhile, and when I went to go to the bathroom I see the kid with his mother. She starts screaming at me for yelling at her kid. I told her I did not yell at him, but told him he should not be talking to friends during his game. I also didn't feel he should be going out and talking to his mom during the round. I didn't want to tell her that if he's going to play with adults he needs to act like an adult, and not running off to mommy if he doesn't like what his opponent said to him. (The tournament director told me later that he essentially said that exact thing to the mother, though in a nice way.) Some things are best unsaid in the heat of the moment. At this point I decided I would let the tournament director deal with it. He told the kid to get back into the playing room, and play the game. He told the mother and me to stop the arguing because he couldn't make any judgment on what was said. I was really pissed off at that point, but went back into the room. As I went back into the room, another mother whose son is friends with the kid said, "You were absolutely right." I thanked her and went back to play.

Sometimes I think it would be better if I just kept my mouth shut. However it just irks the hell out of me when these kids just think it's okay to have non-stop conversations with their buddies, parents and whoever else they decide to speak with. Maybe it's a California thing. Everybody seems to seem it's okay to hang out with friends and talk in the playing room between moves. My editorial comments on the subject will come later.

After the TD told him to go to the board and play, he became super focused. It was a really interesting game. If anyone tells you kids are all tactics and no endgame, don't listen. These days kids are more diversified, and they know a lot more about endgames then you think. I felt like I went wrong when I traded queens, but when I analyzed with Fritz later it still had me equal. Here are a few of the key positions in the ending.

In this position I played 49...d5. What followed was 50. exd5 Rxd5 51. Rd2 Kd6 52. Rxd5+ Kxd5 53. Kd3 e5

I felt I should have not allowed the rook trade, and instead play 49... a5 50. Rc4 h5. Keeping the rooks on the board makes it difficult for either side to make much progress, however the rook trade was not the losing move. After White's move 54. f3 we reached this position.

54...h5 was probably my best try, but instead I played 54...f5. 55. a4 h6? 55...h5 is still the best move here. Possible continuation would be 55... h5 56. g5 h457. Kc3 e4 58. fxe4+ fxe4 59. a5 e3 60. Kd3 e2 61. Kxe2 Kc4 62. Kf3 Kxb4 63.Ke4 Kxa5 64. Ke5 Kb4 65. Kf6 a5 66. Kxg6 a4 67. Kh5 a3 68. g6 a2 69. g7 a1=Q70. g8=Q Qd4 71. Qg4 Qxg4+ 72. Kxg4 Kc5 73. Kxh4 Kd6 74. Kg5 Ke7 75. Kg6 Kf8 76. h4 Kh8 77. h5 Kh8 78. h6 Kh8. Reaching this position which is typical rook pawn drawn ending.

Unfortunately the game went this way instead. 56. h4 fxg4 57. fxg4 g5 58. hxg5 hxg5 59. b5 axb5 60.axb5 e4+ 61. Ke3 Kc5 62. Kxe4 Kxb5 63. Kf5 Kc5 64. Kxg5 Kd6 65. Kh6 Ke6 66. g5 Kf7 67. Kh7 to reach this position. Sames pieces as above, but significant difference since Black can not prevent White from queening the g pawn.

Once he played 67. Kh7 it was very clear to me that he knew how to win this ending. 9 year old kids don't get to high 1700s without knowing how to promote in this position and execute the queen and king checkmate. It's forced mate in 10. At this point I decided to take the graceful way out, and resign. I could have been a schmuck and played out to mate. However I just think it's insulting the opponent's intelligence, especially with lots of time on the clock. I think he was surprised I resigned. I'm sure anyone he's played in a scholastic tournament would have played out hoping for stalemate or a gross blunder of hanging the queen.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lina Grumette Jet Lag Classic Rds. 1-3

Sometimes it doesn't pay to do things on the cheap. My first three rounds were played at Game/60. Usually I like that time control, but the trade off is often you have no time between rounds. I wasn't planning to have time to post anything until after round 4. However when I lose round 3 in 30 minutes then I have time to kill.

First round was a crazy, but sloppy game. Neither of us played so hot. I missed the best moves towards the end and offered a draw even though I was up a pawn. The problem was I had g and h pawns versus his h pawn with each of us having a rook. Here's the game. I think most would agree I don't have much chance of winning. At the end he had a minute, and I had two minutes.


Round two was an insipid game where I gave up the exchange and then got a piece trapped. I would be down a rook, so I figured "Why play that out when you can take a little break instead." I was kind of annoyed during that game. After I had given up the exchange I was fiddling around with the captured pieces. It was one those little fidgety things that I sometimes do, and I'm not even aware I'm doing it. One of the players at the board next to me, reaches over and puts his hand on mine to get me to stop. I mumbled "I'm sorry." and went back to my position. But then I found myself getting really annoyed by the fact that he actually reached over and touched my hand. What the hell was that all about? I felt like saying "You touch me again, I'll touch you back much harder." I refrained. I wasn't in the mood to cause a scene.

I did get out grab a bite to eat, and enjoy a little sunshine. It didn't help me for round three. I played a teenage kid who likes to attack. I knew that since I sat next to him in round 1 and watched him take apart his higher rated opponent pretty quickly. I did not defend well at all.


So much for being rested for round three. Let's see if I'm rested for round four. Hopefully I won't fall asleep with the longer time control of 40/2 SD/1.

Good Morning LA!!

Greetings from from the beautiful LAX Hilton with its spectacular views of parking lots and planes.

Okay excuse the snarky introduction it is a nice hotel, especially because I'm simply here to play chess. This morning I commence play in the two day schedule of the Lina Grumette Memorial Classic this morning. This is my third time playing in the event. Hopefully I'll avoid encounters was annoying kids, unrated ringer fathers of a grandmaster, and manage to get to my round on time. Though playing the two day schedule doesn't really give one much time to wander too far from the hotel. If I'm lucky I might make it over to Carl's Jr. for a sandwich.

True confession: I'm a airline miles junkie. I'm a sucker for elite status in American Airlines frequent flier program. The airlines suck you in once you get it one time. The benefits are so nice you want to keep it up year after year. I get free luggage check, priority check in, good seat choices, upgrades, etc. I'm a sucker for this stuff, but sometimes I have to get really creative to come up with trips that max my miles. Going to Nashville via Chicago in April did that for me. But also the ticket was a third the price doing it that way.

Once a year American has a promotion where one can get double elite status miles if they fly during certain periods. I did this trip last year on that promotion, so figured I'd do it again. Since I don't have the benefit of winning a free trip to Spain on one of American's partners like last year I figured I'd better book a couple of trips using this promotion. That's why in two weeks you'll be getting updates from Las Vegas for the National Open.

I did this trip on the cheap. I flew Saturday instead of Friday. That saves a hotel night, and the flight is cheaper by not flying on Friday of a major holiday weekend. I took the later flight which also saves money. I take a red eye out Monday night. That saves another hotel night. I may regret all of this by Tuesday.

It was a big gamble taking a 6:45 pm flight out here. My normal rule of travel is to leave as early as possible. I would be up the proverbial creek if my flight got screwed up. Getting stranded at Newark Airport would have really sucked. Fortunately the flight left right on time, and we actually got into LA early! How often does that happen? I also got an upgrade so had very comfortable flight and got wined and dined for 5 hours. Woo hoo! Maybe these things are good signs for the weekend. Or perhaps I've used up all my good fortune at the airport.

Stay tuned for updates after my rounds today. Time to go play some chess.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wacky Wednesday!: Saratoga Knightmare Redux

If one goes back to the early days of this blog he might recall that 2007 ended on a rather strange note in Saratoga Springs. After all how often is it that a player can enter a tournament, play two titled players, score a half a point, and win a class prize? Only happens when 6 players show up for a tournament with 6 guaranteed prizes. But that wasn't even the strangest part of that weekend. What can I say about a tournament where the ages of my first four opponents added up to 40? Plenty, when I write this and that on the subject.

I summarized the weekend by writing; "I'm just so glad I traveled 175 miles and spent 2 nights in a hotel to play three players from my local clubs. We could have all stayed home and played a quad in my living room." It's funny that I wrote that, because less then a year and half later that's almost what we did. However it wasn't a quad and it wasn't in my living room. Instead it was a ten player Swiss in another person's living room. My three opponents were the same three kids that play in my local chess clubs. The order in which I played them was slightly different, but unfortunately the results were the same. At least now they're higher rated.

The most interesting game was my second round against Jacob. We haven't played each other since our game in Saratoga Springs. This game was certainly a lot livelier then our last one. All I can say about it is; "Look gift queens in the mouth."


Sunday, May 17, 2009

They All Flew Over the Marshall Nest

Apologies to Ken Kesey who wrote One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, but that's the best way to describe Thursday night's Four Rated Games Tonight! Was there a full moon, or what? Chess players are often described as a little eccentric. Those who don't mince words might say we are all insane. Let's just say that some of the players who attend on Thursday night are colorful characters. It just seemed that there was a little more color then usual.

The first indication that things might be a little off was the entrance of one player who one might say had a little too much to drink before the tournament. He comes in, completely cuts the line and then asks people who have just finished entering whether they're on line or not. He must have asked about three different people, who all said no. However he ignored all the people who actually were on line. Finally somebody points out where the end of the line is, and he goes there. When he gets up to the front, he asks Steve if it takes 2.5 points to qualify for the St. John's Masters tournament. Steve says yes, and this fellow boldly proclaims he's going to qualify.

The first round pairings go up, and I'm paired against IM Jay Bonin for the second week in a row. Jay and I almost never play in this tournament because usually I'm way down in the bottom half. Last week we played because it was a Grand Prix tournament and he was only #7 in the event. This week we played because I was actually fairly high in the bottom half. Last week was the first time I played him since 2007 Last Blunder tournament in Saratoga Springs. I was 0-14 against him going into last week. Now after two straight weeks of playing him I'm 0-16. Though this week's game was probably my best game ever against him.

Long before I lost to Jay, "Mr. I'm Qualifying!" loses in about 5 minutes to his 2000 rated opponent. It made my Kassa Krush look long in comparison. Even the two kids rated 300 and 164 lasted longer against their 1000+ higher rated opponents. Nope, neither of these kids were the 114 from two weeks ago. These were two brothers that were brought to the tournament by their mother. It was obvious she did not have a clue about this tournament. When she entered them, she asked Steve what trophies they could win. I guess she figured since her kids played for trophies in Steve's New York Under 13 tournament, there would be trophies in this tournament too. Oops!

Things got crazy for me in the second round. I got paired down against a provisionally rated 1156. Nothing overly spectacular about the game. I got some good play out of the opening. After 17 moves we reach the following position after 17...Nc6.

At first glance I looked at 18. Ne6+ Kh8 19. Nxd8 Nxd4 20. Rxd4 Rbxd8. That was just a bunch of even trades. Then I noticed that the knight on c6 was en prise so I simply played 18. Bxc6. What I neglected to look at deeper was 18. Ne6+ Kh8 19. Bxc6. Black's queen and rook are still forked, so I still pick up the rook after 19...Qe7 20. Nxf8. A minor hiccup in my analysis.

Around the 44th move I notice that he has stopped keeping score. I have about 6:30 left on my clock, and he has around 13 minutes. This is the position.

At this point I tell my opponent that he needs to continue keeping score until one of us is under 5 minutes. He tells me. "I messed up my score." I tell him it doesn't matter. He needs to continue from the move we left off on. He repeats to me that he's messed up and can't keep score. I stop the clock to get Steve so that he can explain the rule to him. He starts my clock, and says "It's your turn." I stop the clock again and tell him I'm getting the director. When I leave the room he's started my clock again.

Steve comes in and explains to him that he needs to keep score. He starts arguing with Steve. I'm arguing with him because he started my clock again. The players around us are getting annoyed, so Steve has us come out of the playing room so that we don't cause more of a disturbance then we already have. I must admit, I've totally lost my patience and cool at this point. Steve tells him if he wants he doesn't have to keep score but he's going to reduce his time down to 5 minutes. He also tells my opponent he's going to add 2 minutes to my time since he (opponent) had started my clock when I got the director. My opponent is going on about how it was my move. He didn't seem to get the idea that a player may stop the clock to get the director.
Now my opponent goes off on me, and tells me I'm taking this game way too seriously. He tells me this is supposed to be fun, and now I've ruined his fun. After Steve makes the various adjustments to the clock my opponent says to me. "I hope you're happy now. You better win this game." That comment ticked me off because he didn't have to play on if he thought he was so lost. I went back to the board, and went into hyper focus mode. Instead of grabbing more pawns, I forced the rooks off the board. I wasn't going to give him any chance to get some cheap shot in with his rook. Eventually I promoted and mated him on c2. One of my friends who was watching the end, said I looked so intense and totally focused.

I kind of felt bad that I had made such a big deal about the score keeping thing, but I felt I was going to lose more time on the clock if I kept keep score and he didn't. I've had too many "won games" get tossed because my opponent has a big edge on the clock. I could have chosen to stop keeping score when he did, but I like getting as many of the moves as possible. I had no idea that he was going get so agitated over having to keep score. I also don't think he realized what he agreed to when Steve gave him the option of not keeping score but having his time knocked down to 5 minutes.

After the game I apologized for coming across as too hardcore. I tried to explain myself, but he went off about how I serious I take chess because I have a nice clock and a Mon Roi. He goes on about how chess is supposed to be fun, and so on and so forth. What can I say? Some women like to spend their extra money on designer clothes and shoes. I like spending mine on chess toys.

It's funny because there had been a very lively discussion about this topic in the USCF Forums. In the thread I had cited an incident that I had in one of the Parents & Friends in Florida a few years ago. One of the posters complemented me on my cool in that situation. This time I wasn't so cool. Part of it may have been the fear of losing a won game. The night before I had a tough time fighting my demons as I was attempting to win a game up a rook and bishop for three pawns with queens still on the board. More about that game in another post.

Could things get any stranger? Yes. After having lost a tough game to Larry Tamarkin in round three, I get paired down against an unrated who beat an 1850 in the first round. A funny thing always happens a few months before the World Open. Unrateds or players with provisional ratings come out the woodwork, and conveniently start tossing games. Did my last round opponent dump this game? I am White. Look at the position below, and you be the judge.

Position after 26...Nf3+. The game continued 27. Kg3 Rxe1 28. Rxe1 Qd6+?? Did he really miss 28. Rxe1? At this point I figure the dump is on. 29. Kxf3 Qc6+ 30. Kg3 Qd6+ 31. Kg2 Qc6+ 32. Kg1 Qf3 33. Qb2 This is my test move. Is he going to allow me 34. Re8#? 33...Qxh3??? 34. Re8#

I alerted Steve about the game. My opponent would have ended out with a rating around 1850 if he had won this game along with his first round win against Gabor Schnitzler. Yep, that same Mr. Schnitzler that I lost to a few weeks ago. Yes the same Mr. Schnitzler who owns me with a record of 30 wins, 4 draws and 8 losses.

However I was not the only one receiving a gift in the last round. Remember the two brothers who were looking for trophies in this tournament? The 164 rated player was playing my second round opponent, "Mr. I Play Chess For Fun". What is the probability of player who is outrated by 1000 points winning? Normally around .001. However when somebody wants to lose badly enough the probability goes up substantially. Though it was kind of iffy whether "Mr. Fun" could actually escape with a loss. The kid had two queens, but it took him awhile to execute the mate. There was a good chance he'd stalemate first. Though if your opponent is determined to lose, you'll probably stumble over the mate sooner or later.

I have a couple of questions. Is this guy trying to sandbag his way down to the under 900 section at the World Open where he can win the walloping $300 and a trophy for first place? My other question is; Why do people trying to sandbag at "Four Rated Games Tonight" where the tournament director also works the World Open and will remember you, and there are so many high rated players?

As to "Mr. I'm Qualifying!", he went 1-3 with his one win against the 164. Better luck next time. Try again for next month. Maybe one of these days I can get that elusive 2.5 and qualify. I'm a little more realistic about my chances. I also don't like making predictions. Predictions usually get me in trouble.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Break From Chess Today - NYC Photo Tour

I have lived in the NYC metropolitan area for over 30 years now. I rarely come into New York City to be a tourist. In my corporate life in the 80s and 90s I was just another one of those working stiffs making the daily commute into the city.Post corporate rat race, my trips to the city were for some culture, and lots of chess. I was down at the Marshall last night for my Thursday "cracktion" fix. (A post is in the works!) Today I played tourist with my husband and some friends from out of town. One who had never been to New York City before.

"Top of the Rock"
30 Rockefeller Center

The Empire City Building in the background. If you want a nice view of the skyline come to Rockefeller Center. Yes there are lots of tourists, but the staff seems to just do a better job of managing the crowds then they do the Empire State Building. I've lived here for 32 years and this was my first trip to the "Top of the Rock." My one and only trip to the top of the World Trade Center observation deck was for the Kasparov - Anand match on Sept 11, 1995.

Grand Central Terminal

Walking around Grand Central is its own little trip. It's an amazing building with magnificent architectural details. On the lower level there are lots of little restaurants. 5 of us ate lunch for $15 each. Not bad for midtown Manhattan.

Saint Patrick's Cathedral

I've photographed the inside of many churches on my travels. This was the first time I've taken a picture in St. Pat's. I would have like to have spent more time there, but we were trying to cram a lot of stuff in a short day.

Rockefeller Plaza
Outdoor cafe in spring summer and early fall
Skating rink in the winter.

Central Park
Somewhere down there, somebody was playing chess
at the chess & checkers house

I had to get one little chess plug in since this is a chess blog. :-)

Manhattan is an island and it takes a bridge or a tunnel to get in and out.

Times Square
Too many damn tourists!

Sometimes interesting things happen in Times Square.
This evoked memories of the Korean fan dancers I saw last summer.

Getting outta town on a Friday evening!
Traffic to the Holland Tunnel

As we ate dinner we watch a bunch of idiot drivers get stuck in the intersection when the light changed. There were three cops there ticketing people right on the spot for blocking the intersection. It takes the cops all of about a minute to issue a ticket. They have a machine that reads the bar code off the registration sticker, prints the tickets, the cop tears it off gives it to the motorist. He can do this all before the light changes again. There is a reason I avoid driving in Manhattan unless absolutely necessary.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Murphy Does New Jersey

Murphy's Law
(from the book: Murphy's Law and other reasons things go wrong, by Arthur Bloch)

If anything can go wrong, it will.

I am a disciple of Murphy. It doesn't matter whether I'm playing and/or directing he finds a way to annoy the hell out of me. I've read the books, and I know the law. Despite my study of Murphology, "stuff happens". Last Sunday was a classic case of Murphy working double overtime.

In the last couple of months I've made my way down to the Westfield Chess Club to play in their Sunday Quads. They run quads almost every Sunday and they draw anywhere from 20 to 50 players on a typical Sunday. Over the years they've slowly made the transition from running and reporting the entire tournament on paper using index cards and round robin tables, to a hybrid of paper (index cards and hand written pairing sheets) and computer (ratings and online reporting). They actually have Internet access right at the site, so they can report the results as soon as they have everything in the computer.

The tournament director will use Swiss-Sys to look up the current month's rating and create a roster of the players in rating order. Using that roster the cards are put in rating order and then into groups of 4 to create the different quad sections. After that's done they write out all the first round pairings for each of the sections, and then announce them. Once the round is going they will write out all the remaining pairings for all the quads. The nice thing about quads is that they run themselves once they're set up. The players just have to make sure they report the results to the director after each game.

As the tournament is going on, the director will go into the USCF website's TD/Affiliate Support Area, create the sections, type in all the names, and input results as the tournament progresses. Once all the sections are completed, and all the results are in they can submit the rating report. Online submission of results make it possible for players to see what their rating did on the same day if the TD submits the results quickly. By the time I get back home I can go onto the USCF website and see how my rating changed, or didn't change.

Their method works but it's very time consuming. There is a lot of duplication of computer input in terms of entering the names or membership IDs on Swiss-Sys to create the roster in rating order, and then typing in the same information on the USCF website along with all the results. There's also all the handwritten pairing lists that have to be done for every section. On a day with 50 players one can get a bad case of writer's cramp writing out pairings for 12 sections.

Having run lots of quads and other tournaments with Swiss-Sys I knew that there was a more efficient and less time consuming way of doing all that work. I offered to show them how to use Swiss-Sys to do everything for them the next time I came down to play. They took me up on my offer, so this past Sunday I played computer consultant, tournament director and player. I even wrote up instructions with all the steps.

Before players came into register I showed them how to set up a multi-section tournament on the computer. We set up the tournament with seven sections to begin with. I showed them how to create additional sections if needed.

Once players started registering, I had the tournament director put all the players on the computer like he normally does. After all the names were inputted, I showed them how to use the computer to set up the quad sections in lieu of the index cards. On the computer the TD can drag and drop the players into the sections that were created. Once everyone has been moved into their respective sections, it's very easy to pair the sections and print out pairings. Doing it this way eliminates the tedious step of hand writing all of the pairings for your 10 sections, and at the end eliminates having to retype all the names and results for the rating report.

Quick and easy, right? Yes, as long as one has a current version of the software and Murphy isn't lurking around. Unfortunately this was not the case. They have version 6 which has a really annoying flaw to it. Later versions don't have this flaw. And yes, Murphy was lurking around the registration table. How else can one explain why the card for the highest rated player never made it from the guy collecting the money to the guy doing the data entry on the computer?

One of the corollaries to Murphy's Law is; "If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong."

So what could go wrong to cause the most damage to running 10 sections of quads?

Leaving out the highest rated player, and not discovering this until the tournament director starts to announce the pairings for round 1. After announcing the pairings for Quad 1 somebody said "Why isn't David Grasso in that section?" Um....because Murphy hijacked his card, and he wasn't put in the tournament?!

Now what? In Version 7 and 8, no problem. Reset the pairings to zero, add Grasso to Quad 1, drag and drop #5 to Quad 2, and keep repeating this step with each section right down to Quad 10. Remember I mentioned that the old version has a flaw? The flaw being that once you pair the section as a round robin you can't back track in case a player needs to be switched or added. Consequently there was no way to put the missing player into Quad 1 and move players down in every section. Unfortunately at the time I forgot about this flaw, and tried everything I could to make it work. What does Murphy say about that? "Nothing is as easy as it looks."

In the meantime we have 40 antsy players waiting for the first round that should have started at least a half hour earlier bringing to mind another Murphyism. "Everything takes longer than you think."

There were only two choices at this point. Completely re-input everything on the computer and start over, or go back to the old way and use the cards. The TD decided he wanted to use the cards. Unfortunately the cards didn't have the May ratings on them so I quickly start getting the ratings off the computer, write the player's rating on each card, and hand it to the director. He's trying to get the cards into some semblance of rating order, but Murphy isn't through with us yet. "Every solution breeds new problems."

The cards didn't end out in exact rating order so some players ended out in the wrong section, including me. I was supposed to be number four in Quad 4, instead I was number one in Quad 5. Was Murphy starting show me some mercy by having me end out in a lower quad then I was supposed to be in? Ha! The only thing Murphy and mercy have in common is they begin and end with the same letters, and they kind of sound alike. Just remember, "When things just can't get any worse, they will."
Besides I wasn't really the number one player in the section. My May rating was slightly higher then the other players May ratings, but two of the players had slightly higher June ratings. Besides, when playing people within a 50 to 100 point range it doesn't really matter who has a higher rating. The probability at that range is 50%. Anything can happen. That brings up two laws from "Murphy's Law, Book Two: more reasons things go wrong."

1. "All things being equal, you lose."
2. "All things being in your favor, you still lose."

In round one I played someone who has been in my quad every time I've played in Westfield. The funny thing is this time we should not have even been in the same quad. I should have been in #4, and he should have been in #6. The first time we played he was the unfortunate victim in this Wacky Wednesday post. In March we had a rather boring game that ended in draw after reaching this position. He had just played ...Kf8 and offered me a draw which I accepted.

What would our third game be like? It wasn't boring. It wasn't short in terms of time or number of moves. 67 of the total 70 minutes used and 58 moves long. Here's the game.


The remaining players in my quad were on the two extremes of the age scale. A little girl young enough to be my granddaughter, and a man old enough to be my father. The young girl was Alice Dong who last I played in Philadelphia at the Liberty Bell Open. We've played a few times, and our games are always interesting. Beware of cute little 10 year old girls that like to attack. Like our last game, she hung a bishop. Unfortunately I gave back more then a piece this time. I can't even blame it on the clock.

Black to move and lose. 35...Qc7?? 36. Qa8+ Kh7 37. Qg8+ Kg6 38. Bf7#

Given how my day had gone up that point, it was no great surprise when my third round opponent picked the white pawn when we did our toss for color. Beware of 85 year old men who like to attack, and can grind out an ending when the attack is stopped. He won a pawn on move 20. We slugged it out for another 38 moves, but a pawn is a pawn until it threatens to become a queen. Then all hope is lost.

Despite the Murphy mishaps, they asked me if I would like to join their directing team. I haven't said yes or no yet. They're also willing to give it another shot after they upgrade to Version 8. Next time I'm following the rules that got me through my corporate world days as a data center manager and computer trainer.

Rule #1: Never run a new procedure live.
Rule #2: Run the new procedure in parallel with the old procedure.
Rule #3: Back everything up in case you forgot to follow #1 and #2.

I may write my own book of Wright's Laws. Here are the first two.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

No good deed goes unpunished. (Mark Twain)
And yes, "Everything takes longer than you think." I started this post on Tuesday, and I'm finishing it a week after the event. It's good thing I can submit rating reports faster then I can write about events associated with a rating report.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wacky Wednesday!: The Korley Krush.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was one to talk about being over matched. I rant about a 118 playing 1500 - 2000 points over his head yet I have a 12 move game in that same tournament in round one. I played Kassa Korley. Even though I've yet to beat him, I should not have lost the way I did last Thursday's game. It was a case of overreacting to an attack that wasn't all that it was cracked up to be.

Probably most annoying was overlooking the pin of my f2 pawn. I can't begin to count how may times I've had my g pawn captured because the f pawn was pinned to my king by Black's bishop on the g1-a6 diagonal. Usually when that happens my king side falls apart quickly, and Black gets a vicious attack. I think this the earliest in game that I've fallen into this pin.

Here's the game. Analsysis is not deep. Probably the 118 could have found a better move then 11. h4.


I can delay mate for 6 more moves, by sac'ing pieces. However I couldn't see it. The mate in one looked bad enough. How does White prolong the agony? [13. Bf4 Qxf4 14. Qd6 Bxd6 15. Rfd1 Qxf2+ 16. Kh1 Ne3 17. Rg1 Qxh4+ 18. Bh3 Qxh3#] Answer in the brackets. The only bright side to losing that horribly is; the remaing games , could not be any worse.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Saturday Sadistics (Statistics)!!

The original title for this post was "Rant of the Week: Is this parent nuts?" However after going off on one of my mad statistical hunts to answer the question I posed in my original title, I decided the post needed a more fitting title. I'll let you you answer the question yourself after looking at my data.

Sometimes I think after 35 plus years in chess that I've seen everything. Then something happens makes me scratch my head and think to myself "WTF??" I thought April Fools was on the first day of April not on the last day. I guess since I didn't play on April 1st, Caissa decided to have a little fun on April 30th. Last night I played in my 203rd "Four Rated Games Tonight!" tournament at the Marshall Chess Club. Don't be overwhelmingly impressed with that number. Gabor Schnitzler hasn't missed a Thursday night tournament in several years. Jay Bonin misses maybe one or two in a year. I can't even begin to tell you how many Thursday nights those two played. They both could stop now, never play again, and I probably wouldn't catch up with them.

It's a very strong tournament. With a time limit of Game/30 it's not for the faint of heart. There have been nights where half the field has been rated over 2200. I've had my share of nights where at 1700 I've been last on the wall chart, and have to try to dodge the annoying early round bye. (Note: The linked post has been edited to include a game that had vanished in Chess Publisher's black hole. I reposted in Chess Flash and I've added new analysis to it.) The lowest class prize the organizer gives out is Under 2000. Some nights it takes 2.5 to 3 points to win win that prize. With a prize structure like that sometimes one is tempted to ask; "Why would anyone rated under 1800 want to play in a tournament like that?"

Why? Because it's an fairly inexpensive way ($20-$40 entry fee) to get some an opportunity to play stronger players. That's why I play in the tournament. I know I'm going to get at least two if not more games against higher rated players. Any serious kid from the New York City area plays in the tournament to get the experience against strong competition, and the opportunity to pick up rating points. There are kids that used to play in scholastic tournaments that I directed that move to playing in this tournament. They may get hammered when they first start playing in this tournament as a 1400. Those who stick with it eventually work their way up, and break 1900. I know I've contributed numerous rating points over the years to those rising kids.

I've played 790 games in this particular tournament between July 1997 and April 2009. Wayne Zimmerle's MSA data program and an Excel spreadsheet made it possible to figure this stuff out. I'm an Excel addict. I love putting data in an Excel spreadsheet, manipulating it by doing different sorts and coming up with statistics about win-loss records against various players, average rating, and the different range of people and ratings I've played over the years. The MSA data program takes all of a player's rating history and generates different reports. These reports are in text file format but can be imported into Excel. I sorted my history by tournament and then took all the Thursday cracktion data and put it on a separate page and then played with it. To borrow from Paul Simon, there must be "50 Ways to Sort This Data."

My record in Thursday night "cracktion" is 124 wins, 86 draws and 580 losses. Yes that looks pretty bad. However the average rating of my opponents is 1810. That average includes treating unrated players as having a rating of zero. If I throw out the unrated players the average goes up to 1850. My highest rated opponent was 2470. My lowest rated opponent was 629. (I don't count the 501 rated house player I played when I got a bye in the first round.) The 629 was a visitor from New Mexico who thought it would be a fun thing for his son and him to play at the Marshall Chess Club while visiting New York. His son was rated 1200 at the time. They had no idea how strong the event Now his son is 1756. Dad's rating has dropped to 550.

After seeing how bad the overall record was I decided I would break it down by rating ranges and see just how bad it really was. I played 505 games with players rated 1800 and above. 105 games were against B players. 180 games were against players rated under 1600. The interesting, but somewhat depressing thing was noticing the number of players who I lost to in the 1400 - 1599 range that have beaten me again when their rating went up.

2200+: 1 win 2 draws 77 losses = 80
2000 - 2199: 9 wins 0 draws 178 losses = 187 (No draws? What is that all about?)
1800 - 1999: 19 wins 28 draws 191 losses = 238
1600 - 1799: 25 wins 16 draws 65 losses = 105 (Yes this indicates that I'm playing below my floor in these tournament.)
1400 - 1599: 32 wins 26 draws 48 losses = 106
Under 1400: 31 wins 10 draws 16 losses = 57

Unrated: 7 wins 5 draws 5 losses = 17 (Box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.)

What got me started on this silly exercise was the WTF? moment of Thursday night. I've only played 5 games against people with ratings under 1000 in this tournament. One was the unsuspecting father from New Mexico. Two were against the same low rated player acting as a house player in an early round so I wouldn't have a bye. One game was against a kid rated 982 who was in over his head. He stopped playing in 2005. My most recent game against a three digit rated player was the teenage kid who started out 0-9 in this tournament and was much better then the rating indicated. He's now rated 1487.

This past Thursday was a fairly small field with only 23 players. However it was a strong field. You know it's a strong field when a 2014 gets paired up against Alex Lenderman in round 1. I played Kassa Korley on board 7 in round 1. When I'm on a lower board with an opponent like that I know I'm going to play I'm going to play up again in round two. I don't mind missing the cut. It beats just making the cut and having to play a random unrated or a kid rated 1100.

Kassa crushed me quickly. It's Wacky Wednesday worthy, so look for it next week. When somebody said there was a player with a rating of 118 playing in the tournament, I said "No he's 1118." That's what I had thought I saw on the wallchart. I went out and looked at the wallchart again, and sure enough #23 is rated 118. He lost to a WFM from Estonia. I'm sure she was just thrilled to play a 7 year old kid with a 118 rating. I know Josh and his dad Guy were not thrilled to play him in rounds two and three.

I was sure I was going to play him in round three because the colors were right and it looked like I was just making the break. That was going to totally tick me off. Fortunately somebody took a bye in round three so Steve put Guy back into the tournament as a house player. Guy ended out playing him. I got paired "down" against somebody who was rated 1670, but is actually over 1700.

It's none of my business what a father opts to do with his 7 year old kid. However it begs the question, "What? Is he totally out of his mind?" How can anyone in their right mind put a kid with 118 rating in a tournament like this? The lowest possible rating a player can have is 101. It used to be 100, but the powers that be decided it wasn't good to have a bunch of players at 100. They decided that a player would get 1 point for each tournament they played in. Even my husband who doesn't play chess said "Him playing in that tournament is like a beginning musician going to audition for a Broadway show."

This particular player has played a total of 14 tournament games. His lone win came in an under 600 section where he beat a kid who went 0-4 and ended out with a rating of 101. It's not like the father doesn't know how strong the tournament is. Last week he and his son both played. I don't see any benefit to a 7 year old playing against adults who out rate him by 1500 points. Even me who likes to play stronger competition knows that there is limit to how beneficial it is to play up. Last summer, I had a very lively discussion in the the comments section of Rhode Trip: Winning the Battle. Losing the War about the subject of playing up. I took some heat for wanting to play up when I'm playing below my floor, but most agreed that playing up can be helpful.

Maybe I shouldn't say anything considering how quickly I lost against Kassa. Though I did resign and not play out to mate. Even though I'm 0-7 against him, I've had some decent games with him. This last one was not! That being said, I still contend that to subject a player to such large mismatches is unfair both to him and his opponent. I think players expect a challenge when they come to the Marshall Chess Club on Thursday nights. I don't think they expect to play somebody 1500 points lower then them. Is there any challenge to playing somebody that much lower? Blunders happen, and sometimes we don't give or get the challenge we want. Stuff happens. However I don't think stuff is going to happen when there is a 1500 point difference in rating.

On the plus side, the kid handled losing very well. There was no crying or dropping out after losing a game. He seemed to be happy to be at the club, and his father would calmly go over the games with him after the round. Personally his father would have been better off bring him on Sunday when Steve has the New York Under 13. There's an under 1000 section in that tournament. There he'd get more appropriate match ups and probably would win a couple of games. Hopefully his father will realize that "Four Rated Games Tonight!" is not the tournament for a 7 year old with a 118 rating.